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The Rise and Fall of the American Whig PartyJacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War$
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Michael F. Holt

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780195161045

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195161045.001.0001

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“Like Pissing Against the Wind”

“Like Pissing Against the Wind”

(p.726) Chapter 20 “Like Pissing Against the Wind”
The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party

Michael F. Holt

Oxford University Press

More than any presidential election since 1836, the 1852 campaign focused on the character and reputation of the opposing presidential candidates rather than on alternative public policies. Southern Democrats' campaign tactics, northern Whigs' disgust with their platform, and the Democrats' selection of Franklin Pierce, a man particularly vulnerable to personal attack, all contributed to that focus. Their indistinguishable positions on the Compromise and the irrelevance of economic issues because of prosperity forced them to appeal for votes by contrasting their nominees. Despite the considerable problems faced by the Whig party, many Whig leaders, especially the party's high command who orchestrated the campaign from Washington, convinced themselves that victory was certain. Although some prescient Whigs had long predicted defeat in 1852, even a few of the previous naysayers converted and remained optimistic until the votes were cast. For the historian blessed (or cursed) with hindsight, explaining that confidence is far more difficult than explaining the outcome itself.

Keywords:   presidential election, presidential candidates, Democrats, Whig party, Franklin Pierce, Compromise, Washington

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